Since last autumn, we have seen a steady increase in cases of COVID-19, with new daily records in Toronto and Ontario. We are only beginning to see the impacts of gatherings over the Christmas holidays and the New Year’s celebration. We have now surpassed a total of 5,000 deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario.
Despite earlier evidence, Premier Ford who has seen these steady increases neglected to take timely action. Today the Premier announced a State of Emergency, and further public health restrictions including limited shopping hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, limiting outdoor gatherings from 10 to five people, and limiting office spaces to only essential personnel. Restricted shopping hours do not affect retailers who primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery. Lastly, the Province of Ontario is issuing a stay-at-home-order effective this Thursday at 12:01 a.m., which will require everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, like going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise, or for essential work. Although I know many of you have been doing this since March 2020, this is not enough.
Since March 2020, Toronto’s Board of Health and myself have repeatedly urged the provincial government to implement adequate paid sick leave, moratoriums on evictions, and robust financial supports for small businesses and vulnerable individuals. Without these protections, residents are forced to choose between putting food on their table and paying rent, or risk getting and spreading a deadly disease.
Historically, Ontario has suspended evictions over the holiday, however, the Federation of Metro Tenants Association discovered that not only were evictions carried out over the holidays, but the staff who were not on vacation were fully booked through the holiday with enforcement activities. To evict an individual or family over the holidays is disheartening, but to continue through a global pandemic is cruel.
In addition to rising cases in essential workplaces, we continue to see devastating impacts on long-term care homes across the province which is a humanitarian crisis. These homes have long been neglected and underfunded. When Premier Ford took office, he slashed $34 million in long-term care funding and with his budget neglected to provide funding at the rate of inflation, resulting in continual cuts. As reported in the COVID-19: Read the Canadian Forces report on long-term care, these cuts to essential services resulted in only 9 out of the Province’s 696 long term care homes receiving their annual inspection in 2019.
I know that with each outbreak, families are no longer permitted to visit their loved ones, or worse they lose their loved ones. Political neglect continues to result in more outbreaks and lives lost. At November’s Board of Health meeting, my colleagues and I adopted Response to COVID-19: Persevering Through Resurgence urging the Federal and Provincial governments to prioritize our most vulnerable populations, especially those in congregate settings as well as their frontline staff, in vaccine delivery. We also requested that the Provincial government immediately provide adequate paid sick leave in order to ensure that those who are sick are able to stay home.
While the City of Toronto runs several long term care homes that remain diligently monitored, long term care is a Provincial jurisdiction. We need to continue to push the Premier and his Ministers to increase rapid testing for our health care workers, and provide additional funding to long term care homes across the province. Additionally, Premier Ford needs to reinstate mandatory, unannounced inspections of these facilities, and introduce public reporting in order to provide transparency and accountability. Today’s forecasts from the province now suggest there will actually be more deaths in long-term care in the pandemic's second wave compared to the first. Since January 1, 2021, 198 long-term care residents and two staffers have died.
By ignoring this urgent crisis, Premier Ford demonstrates his priorities to big businesses while denying the health and safety of our community's most vulnerable. Please email Premier Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org and Long Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton at email@example.com and let them know we need urgent and coordinated action now.
Against the backdrop of this global pandemic, city business continues as we keep working towards a better future. Yesterday at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee, my colleagues recommended that City Council adopt yongeTOmorrow and its recommendations for a once-in-a-lifetime redesign of iconic downtown Yonge Street. yongeTOmorrow is our generational opportunity to transform Yonge Street into a world-class, 21-century urban destination, that supports critical public health objectives - for a world with COVID-19 and beyond. yongeTOmorrow proposes a full and flexible redesign of the street from College St, south to Queen St, where sidewalks will be expanded, vehicle lanes modified, restaurant patios extended, with street furniture, enhanced lighting, trees, and streetscape elements added. The nearly 140-year-old water main is in desperate need of repair, and we should not rebuild Yonge Street in its current configuration. We need to consider everything we have learned through this pandemic, and create a beautiful and dynamic Yonge Street for everyone to enjoy. To learn more, and find out how you can support this public realm transformation, please visit www.yongeTOmorrow.ca/support.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Image description: two pictures of the inside of the Dan Harrison complex lobby before the renovations
Addressing the longstanding safety challenges at the Dan Harrison complex at Sherbourne and Queen has been a priority since I became the new Councillor in the redrawn boundaries of Ward 13 back in October 2018. I am pleased to share that Toronto Community Housing has now completed an extensive makeover of the main floor of 251 Sherbourne Street. There have been renovations to the lobby, security office, and entrance vestibule which has helped transform the main floor of the building into a welcoming and secure environment. The work is wrapping up now, and Facilities Management is in the final inspection stage. What an amazing improvement!
Image description: two pictures of the renovations at Dan Harrison complex
I’d like to offer my thanks to Toronto Community Housing, and the City staff who helped make this renovation happen. I’m sure it will be enjoyed by residents in the years to come. I look forward to the continued improvements to the Dan Harrison complex as part of a Dan Harrison Master Plan to address the health, safety, and wellbeing of those tenants. This plan is underway and, if passed by Council, will bring positive transformative change that this neighbourhood at Sherbourne and Dundas has not seen in decades. Congratulations to all involved!
Community Care in Ward 13
The Provincial government announced that elementary schools across Ontario, including those at the TDSB, will remain closed until Wednesday, February 10, 2021. This decision to keep schools closed was made as a direct result of the increasing COVID-19 cases and continued collective efforts to keep people safe.
During this time, all in-person schools will continue with remote learning, while virtual schools will continue as normal.
While this presents a major inconvenience, based on the COVID numbers across the province (over the last week we've seen over 3000 new cases daily), as well as here in Toronto, I believe it would be prudent to keep all students learning virtually.
I want to thank each and every one of our teachers, educational assistants, caretakers, support staff, and senior staff for their continued work during this difficult time. Your ability to pivot to remote learning swiftly and smoothly shows your dedication and commitment to supporting the learning and well-being of our students.
I also want to thank all parents and guardians for your resilience and patience (I'm sure it's very thin at this point). I know it's not easy, especially for those who are working in essential workplaces including medical facilities, grocery stores, food establishments, childcare facilities, and others.
Together we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and welcome everyone back soon.
Yours in Service,
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic, and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:
- Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
- Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
- Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
- Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
- physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection
Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.
How to Safely Wear a Mask
Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.
- Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
- Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
- Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
- Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
- Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
- Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
- Don’t share your mask with others
- Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
- The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
City of Toronto Working with Province and Healthcare Partners to Vaccinate All Long-Term Care Residents, Workers and Caregivers; Working with Hospitals to Vaccinate Frontline Paramedics
The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Today, Mayor John Tory, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg provided an update on the City’s measures to combat the resurgence of the virus in Toronto.
This week the City of Toronto was made aware of four employees who work at St. Lawrence Market who have tested positive for COVID-19. One employee is a staff member of the City’s Facilities Management section and three employees work at three different merchant stores in the Market.
The City of Toronto recorded more than 2,000 total deaths of Toronto residents as a result of COVID-19. The City and Toronto Public Health send their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of individuals lost to the virus. This tragic milestone is a reminder that all people must work to protect their community by staying home as much as possible and following public health guidance.
City of Toronto Creates New Shelter Design Guidelines Building on Best Practices and Advice from Those with Lived Experience
The City of Toronto has created new Shelter Design Guidelines based on extensive consultation that lays out best practices in the design of new permanent shelters in Toronto.
Toronto Elections saw a total of 2,227 eligible electors vote during the by-election’s advance vote, which ran continuously for three days from Friday, January 8 to Sunday, January 10.
City of Toronto Launching Initial COVID-19 Immunization Clinic to Prepare for City’s Role in Vaccine Distribution
The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Today, Mayor John Tory, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg provided an update on the City’s measures to combat the resurgence of the virus in Toronto, the rollout of vaccines to priority groups and wider immunization planning.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is providing $7.5 million to help educators better support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The funding will be used to deliver online courses and training opportunities for teachers and educational assistants in all 72 of Ontario's district school boards. The training program will be delivered by the Geneva Centre for Autism.
The Ontario government has launched a new Residential Condominium Buyers' Guide to help condo buyers make informed purchasing decisions. Beginning January 1, 2021, developers across the province will be required to provide purchasers of new or pre-construction residential condos with a copy of the guide and the current disclosure statement. The new guide will include up-to-date information on a variety of aspects of condo ownership.
The Ontario government is investing $5.3 million, provided through the federal Forest Sector Safety Measures Fund, to help small and medium-sized forest sector businesses offset the cost of COVID-19 safety measures. The funding will be used for initiatives such as setting up sanitizing stations, providing enhanced cleaning, additional worker training, measures to increase physical distancing, and to purchase personal protective equipment.
Government of Canada Updates
Government of Canada to Ensure that International Travellers Cannot Access Recovery Benefits During Mandatory Quarantine
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has strongly urged Canadians to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. As Canadians continue to make difficult but important sacrifices for their health and their communities, the Government of Canada has been there to support them every step of the way, including through the creation of three new benefits for workers who do not qualify for EI: the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).
On January 8, 2021, an inmate from Saskatchewan Penitentiary died at an outside hospital as an apparent result of complications related to COVID-19.
Government of Canada Announces New Policy To Help Former International Students Live In, Work In And Continue Contributing To Canada
International students bring so much to Canada, contributing over $21 billion annually to our economy and supporting the vitality of our communities. Yet the pandemic has presented myriad challenges for international students. Most notably, for many holders of a post-graduation work permit (PGWP), the pandemic’s disruption and uncertainty have jeopardized their chances of obtaining the work experience they need to apply for permanent residence.
The Government of Canada welcomes the Government of Ontario’s announcement to offer COVID-19 testing on-site at Toronto Pearson International Airport for arriving international travellers who wish to take a test prior to leaving the airport.
Today, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) announced that it is beginning vaccination of older, medically vulnerable federal inmates against COVID-19 as part of the first phase of the vaccine rollout, as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
Call if you develop symptoms!
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)
Support for People Living with Homelessness
If you see someone living with homelessness and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766. For mental health support, the Gerstein Crisis Centre is a valuable 24-hours a day, seven days a week service in our community and they have crisis workers on standby at 416-929-5200. More resources, including additional how to report information, are available on my website at kristynwongtam.ca.
If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at torontopolice.on.ca/core or to torontopolice.on.ca/community-complaints. You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222.